Posts Tagged toolbox talk
They caught my attention because I could hear them enjoying their day just outside my window. There was three of them working together sharing a little camaraderie as they soaked up the sunshine. I admired their work and the fact they were working away without a care in the world. Their work was efficient and precise; I couldn’t help but think how much better they were doing than I would. I’m not sure how long they worked at their trade, but there were a number of other people admiring their job as well. In fact, they had an area sectioned off just so a crowd wouldn’t grow and potentially be adversely impacted by their work.
I don’t think their work is too difficult, but it’s clear to see they took pride in what they were doing and all the on-lookers could easily see the skills they were brandishing. One thing is for certain, it takes someone with a unique skill set to even apply for a job like this. I know that might sound a little contradictory, but as I said they were right out my window, in fact, they were washing my window … on the seventeenth floor.
I had the chance to go down and talk to their boss about the exceptional job they were doing and about how they seemed to be having a good time. From the ground level I was marveling at how high that was and how comfortable they were working at that height. Their boss confided in me that being a high-rise window washer takes a special kind of person.Most of us aren’t hanging out on the 17th story, but I would venture to guess all of us will, at times, approach a common daily task without regard to the present danger. Inattention or disregard to hazards can prove to be dangerous or even fatal. Sometimes we get a little cocky with safety and our attitude says “It won’t happen to me”. Kind of like a boxer letting down his guard or even going out of his way to taunt his opponent. Sooner or later that tactic will fail and the results will be devastating, just ask Anderson Silva.
My window washer friends were following the safety protocols they have established, are you? Or are you leaving your chin out there waiting for the next haymaker?
At last year’s garage sale I was reminded of the result of not addressing a hazard. This really wasn’t a safety hazard, but actually a security hazard. It was the last couple of hours in our 2-day garage sale and we finally convinced our son to bring his Play Station Portable (PSP) into the garage in order to sell it. It was fairly new piece of technology, but he wasn’t using it much any more so he decided to sell it.
One of the difficult tasks of a garage sale is trying to figure out what to price things at. The PSP was in great shape and he even had 8 games to go with it. I thought he was being very reasonable and priced the PSP and the games at $95. When you sell items at a garage sale you need to be willing to dicker a little and within a half hour he had someone offer him $70 which was just below what he was willing to take … he countered with $80 and his potential sale walked away.
About another half hour later my son said “Hey, my PSP is gone”. He had left the sale for about 15 minutes and in that length of time someone pocketed the most expensive item in our sale. Typically my wife and I were on the driveway trying to help customers and our kids were walking around too. There were only a handful of people at the sale when my son noticed the PSP was missing. Unfortunately, I think the perpetrator was already long gone.
There were many things we felt we could’ve done to ensure this didn’t happen. For starters we should’ve had the PSP under constant supervision … outside, under our noses. All of us had a chance to change the location of the PSP, but no one did. In fact, I had other games inside the garage at the same location prior to the PSP’s introduction into the garage sale. I felt responsible because my son placed the PSP where it made the most sense in relation to the other sale items.
There seem to be a lot of parallels to safety, in fact, my daughter says “Dad, you can relate everything to safety”. Often new regulations are introduced after a serious injury or fatality, but for the person suffering the repercussions of an injury it’s too late to respond after the damage has been done. How often do we say “I should’ve done this, or I should’ve done that? In our scenario if we evaluated the location of the PSP as a hazard we could have easily changed the location, we failed to address the hazard. When new equipment is introduced it makes sense to re-evaluate processes to ensure safety is being considered, we shouldn’t fall back into doing things the same way out of habit.
After reading this blog I think everyone is aware the hazard of shoplifting transcends stores and the shopping mall and even needs to be considered for your garage sale. I also hope I have spurred you to look for potential hazards in your workplace or at home. One of the reasons I speak to many organizations is to heighten the awareness of safety. Although I can’t guarantee my presentation will make your workplace injury free, I know it has a profound impact in helping people realize safety is in their hands and the results of leaving hazards unaddressed can be deadly. Don’t wait until an injury occurs … be proactive and address hazards.
I’ll start off by saying I don’t travel nearly as much as many of my clients. I have only travelled 2,000 km inside of a week on a couple of occasions. If you’re not battling fatigue or weather issues, travel is not usually that difficult. This week, the weather has made travel extremely treacherous. I haven’t heard of any fatalities over the last couple of days with the crazy spring blizzard we are experiencing, but I have talked with a couple folks who felt like they dodged a serious collision. When a Saskatchewan blizzard blows in it can be nasty!
Even though they can predict likely outcomes of the weather it often doesn’t mesh with our schedule or agenda. I drove up to Lloydminster on Tuesday afternoon/evening to speak for a client first thing Wednesday morning. The drive up was fabulously calm and sunny, just an all-around great day for travel. It was the last day of winter, and the evening was nice and long with sunlight past 7:30, which seems somewhat odd with so much snow on the ground.
Wednesday morning arrived, I spoke for Husky Energy at the Upgrader then left Lloydminster to get to an afternoon speaking engagement in Unity. Many of the folks at the Sifto Salt Plant were curious about my drive, but it was fairly uneventful. By mid-afternoon the wind turned the country side into blizzard conditions and chaos. The roads became completely impassable with huge snow banks covering many of the roadways in central Saskatchewan.
The police closed many highways, but a number of people decided their timeline and destination trump the road conditions. I have decided to sit here stranded in Unity Saskatchewan waiting for the weather to clear. I had many conversations with other travellers and stranded workers today, but the winds only let up long enough to see the roads were still impassable. I’m hoping tomorrow is a better day and I can head on down the road, but we’ll have to wait and see since there is snowfall in the forecast.
Whether you’re driving for work or personal reasons it makes sense to pay attention to the weather forecasts and road conditions. I have stated on numerous occasions that the most dangerous activity that people perform with great regularity is driving a vehicle. According to the US Bureau of Labor over 38% of workplace fatalities are a result of occupational transportation incidents.
Have you driven when it wasn’t safe to do so? Were there other alternatives to that travel? Would you say you put a greater priority on your agenda than on your safety?
There has been a lot of snow in Regina this year and I’m sure the snow clearing budget was used up long ago. Apparently the record snowfall we had in November alone was more than all snowfall from last winter. I heard yesterday that they are clearing streets 20 hours a day, 7 days a week to try and catch up. What gets me is the guy that complains about the snow clearing while he’s sitting on his couch and there are so many people braving the cold weather and working hard to make the city run smoothly. This much snow has been viewed as “white gold” to companies dedicated to clean it up, but certainly a very onerous task for a city the size of Regina.
Many people are critical of the effort the city is taking to clear the snow, but I think they’ve done a fabulous job. The problem is; it’s a lot of snow! During these long days and even later nights the city crews are working hard to get everything cleared off. I think it can be compared to a farmer at harvest time. Kinda like making hay while the sun is shinin’, it’s work that needs to get done. It seems like an unfathomable amount of work with very tight deadline and possibly even more snow on the way. The problem is with all this effort and long hours, physical and cognitive fatigue set in. When you experience cognitive fatigue you aren’t thinking clearly or thinking about the consequences of your actions. It’s at that time we take unwarranted risks.
Are you working with the “pedal to the metal” and “burning the candle at both ends”? Are your “aware of” or “oblivious to” the hazards this approach may pose? Step back and assess your situation. Some people argue, “I don’t have time to do that!” I would counter, you can’t afford not to. I’m not saying everyone has to fit within the 40 hour work week (wouldn’t that be nice), but I am saying don’t let your passion to complete a task cloud your judgement when your safety is at risk. Well, it’s time for me to quit blogging I’ve got to get outside and shovel the sidewalk.
I’ve talked about perspective in the past, because I believe it is absolutely vital to gain perspective when you’re enduring a hardship. My injury occurred near the end of November. It’s around the time you start to receive Christmas cards. The Christmas of 2008 produced a record number of cards because I had many people wishing me well and wanting to let me know they were thinking about me and many of them praying for me. I felt good to have so much support, but there were still many opportunities for me to feel sorry for myself while I was enduring the pain of my injury and knowing some things would never be the same.
One day I remember opening a Christmas card and along with the Christmas greeting they encouraged me to heal up soon. The thoughts were impacting, but the card itself impacted me even more. In the days of texting and email selecting an appropriate card is almost a lost art form. I remember spending many hours on numerous occasions in the card store trying to find a card expressing the right words. The odd thing is I can’t recall the words to this card … the impact was in the painting displayed on the card. In fact, I was intrigued enough that I turned the card over to see who the artist was. It was painted by a “Mouth & Foot Painting Artist”. I was in awe; in fact I was almost ashamed of my wallowing. I quickly gathered up my other Christmas cards and realized how many of the cards had been painted by “Mouth & Foot Painting Artists”. All I could do was sit back and marvel at how I was being blessed by someone who had likely endured a much greater hardship than I had, someone without the use of their hands.
This was a huge perspective boost. My left hand was perfectly fine, but I was so focused on how damaged my right hand was. At that point in time it was like I moved my hand from right in front of my face and changed my focus to what lay beyond the impact of the injury. I began to see past the injury. I began to see all the things I could do instead of being so focused on what I couldn’t do. The encouragement came from some extremely determined and talented artists who refused to give-up and were producing wonderful art that became a blessing for me.
Are there times when you can’t see the forest for all of the trees? Are you too busy overlooking your abilities so you can focus on weaknesses or inabilities? Here’s a classic for you … Are you making a mountain out of a mole hill? Are your problems really as big or all-encompassing as you feel? Take some time to analyze your problems and weigh them against the challenges of people less fortunate than you. Now move past those doubts and fears and begin to focus on your abilities you may be surprised at your own resiliency.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Think back to your first months on a new job. Did your desire to please your boss or to show your competence exceed your ability? Were you adequately trained to take on the tasks that you were required to do? Often young workers feel pressure to perform in roles that are unfamiliar and as a result of that unfamiliarity their safety is in jeopardy.
It seems like safety speakers are often pointing out the flaws of others, but without a doubt I have fallen into the high expectation/low expertise trap myself … as I look back to my first days as an Industrial Arts and Computer Science teacher. I had just earned my Bachelor of Education at the University of Regina with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. I felt that my training had prepared me well for life as a teacher, but had no clue my first opportunity would be as a Computer Science and Industrial Arts teacher at Balcarres School. I was young and confident that I could teach Industrial Arts even though I had never used most of the tools in the shop. I’m sure the confidence and enthusiasm helped the School Board determine I was the right person for the job. I interviewed in November of 1992, but didn’t finish my University classes until late December.
I landed the job and in the midst of finishing finals and moving I spent many hours with my Father-in-law in his workshop. I knew I couldn’t run from the tools, but some of them literally scared me and there’s nothing students will chew up and spit out quicker than a rookie teacher that’s unsure of himself. I read every owner’s manual that I could find and spent countless hours in the shop familiarizing myself with the tools.
Once the semester started I had numerous phone calls and conversations with my Father-in-law, trying desperately to gain experience. What made matters even more challenging was the apparent lack of constraints on the type of projects my students selected at the start of the year. Everything was big … everyone was making some sort of table or shelving unit and everything was only half completed.
At this point I felt safety was key, I really didn’t want anyone to get hurt on my watch. I reverted back to classroom instruction to ensure student safety which also gave me time to hone my skills (or at least to find some competency). I taught my students and myself that the tools are just doing what they were designed for and safe use was paramount. I recall telling my students that tools are unforgiving and don’t care if they are cutting through wood or bone.
Experience is a very good teacher, but not always the friendliest.
I should’ve asked for training. I should’ve confessed to my Principal or Director that I didn’t feel safe using the router and table saw. I should’ve, but like most young workers I remained silent. Over time I did hone my skills and from what I recall there was only one student injury (cut from a carving tool) while I worked as the Industrial Arts teacher. When I left Balcarres after five and a half years of teaching I remember saying to my wife that “I still have all my fingers”. Little did I know that ten years down the road complacency would set in and I would suffer such a nasty injury from a table saw kickback.
If you’re a young worker, please don’t add to the statistics which find young workers have a 48 percent higher risk of injury than the overall working population. If you’re unsure of your safety with a task or tool that you are using be honest, ask for direction or simply refuse to do that work until you’ve been properly trained. Always remember, you have the right to refuse work if you feel it is unsafe.
If you’re a supervisor, ask yourself if have you provided the proper instruction and training to ensure that your workers are safe? Sometimes safety may be viewed as unproductive time, but consider the possible impact on productivity and the wellness of your workers if someone gets injured simply because they weren’t aware of a hazard. Safety is everyone’s responsibility … please work together and STOP Cutting Corners!
This story is part 2 of my Daylight Savings Time Series … Spring Forward; Fall Back
Saskatchewan is a province that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time and our safety statistics indicate we often don’t observe safety hazards. In the past I have stated that “Being safe isn’t about living with a complete lack of risk, but being aware of the risks that exist and managing them to a level you’re comfortable with.” So, what happens if you have a greater ‘risk appetite’ than you should? There is a lot of innovation in Saskatchewan along with confidence and a resourceful attitude that says “I can do that on my own, I won’t be defeated by this little obstacle”. Without a doubt, growing up in a small farming community helped shape this “resourceful, never say die” attitude within me.
A couple months ago my garage door spring broke. Even though I had no clue what needed to be done to fix the problem this didn’t seem like too big of an issue to me. After a brief discussion with a co-worker and a freshly heightened sense of safety I decided that I would call “The Overhead Door” company of Regina and get them to fix my door. It was about $150 bucks and was fixed the next day. Prior to my injury I’m almost certain this would be a task I would take on possibly with a little help from YouTube.
A couple weeks passed and I was talking with my neighbour who told me he was thinking about me because he had a friend who was recovering from a serious hand injury (I get that a lot). His friend had a garage door spring that broke and he attempted to fix it on his own. While he was working on the spring it let loose then suddenly the wrench whipped around and hit his hand. Feeling the immediate pain he grabbed his damaged hand and went into the house where he asked his son for a band-aid. His son said “Dad your thumb is gone!”
It happens that quickly. There’s no time to readjust or get your hand out of the way. I recall immediately after my injury the wood from the tablesaw kickback hit my hand and I thought “I want a do-over”, but it was too late the damage was done. Looking down, my hand was in pieces and it only took a split second. The solution isn’t in the split second it’s in the hours, minutes, and seconds that precede an injury.
There was a popular video game in the early 90’s called Lemmings, where these poor little creatures met their untimely demise if you didn’t select the right tool and do what was required to help them out. The free-hand cross cut I made on my table saw could’ve been made with a hand saw and a chisel in less than four minutes … not much of an investment to prevent such a serious hand injury. Let me ask, what steps of prevention are you missing? Are you using the right tool for the job? Are you aware of the hazards?
In a previous blog I asked “How would missing a hand impact your tasks at work”. I shared that a friend of mine who is a dentist said “he couldn’t afford to do his own renovations in the event a serious injury could occur”. In retrospect I couldn’t afford to be careless or use the improper tool either. I may not have staff dependent on me for their livelihood, but I have a family that depends on me … simply put it wasn’t worth the risk of doing something I knew was dangerous for the amount of time it “saved” me. For more details check out my How Serious is a Hand Injury blog or this Garage Door Safety site, but be warned both these sites have images with graphic hand injuries.
It is not my intention to fear monger, but it makes sense to approach each task with safety as a focal point. One of the common causes of injuries is “Unknown or Unaddressed Hazards”. Take responsibility for your safety and familiarize yourself with potential hazards especially when a task isn’t familiar to you. Similarly, don’t ignore a hazard that has potential impact on your safety. If your problem happens to be your garage door spring, do yourself a favour and call on the professionals.
This Sunday other provinces and states will spring their clocks and watches forward an hour, but perhaps we can all pause time for just a moment to consider … our health and safety.
One of my earlier blogs spoke of how fear can be completely debilitating. I was using an experience I had back in 2001 to demonstrate this point. More specifically, I was in Zimbabwe Africa at Victoria Falls. There were a couple of activities I engaged in that I likely wouldn’t have been at liberty to enjoy if my wife had come along on the trip. At this point in my life I was intrigued by Bungee Jumping, but even more excited about the opportunity to try out the Batoka Gorge Swing since it was featured on Season 1 of The Amazing Race.
It seemed every activity I was interested in was worth $100 US at the time and there were only so many of those bills to go around so Bungee Jumping would have to wait. I recall looking at the Zimbabwe Bungee Jump and marvelling at how extremely far of a plunge it was. My interest likely lasted longer than 30 minutes watching jumper after jumper face their fears. What is the fear in Bungee jumping? I suppose the obvious fear is the cord will break and that you will fall to your demise. Does this ever really happen? Surely there must be some sort of safety precautions in place to ensure it doesn’t happen? One has to remember that your safety should be your concern. This principle of responsibility is likely why sky divers pack their own chutes.
Two weeks ago a Bungee jumper in Zimbabwe made that familiar brave jump, but the jump ended in horror. Erin Langworthy survived, but her story and video were captured by the BBC. Certainly this made me question the safety of the other activities that took place while I was in Zimbabwe.
We don’t have to go overseas to find inherently dangerous activities designed to satisfy thrill seekers. As I watch the X-games or even just competitive sport one has to wonder just how far things should be pushed for the sake of sport or entertainment. As a kid I remember idolizing the Crazy Canucks and watching in horror as Steve Podborski and Dave Irwin wiped out at top speed during downhill races. Would they survive? Would they move again? Would they recover? Recently we were asking the same questions about freestyle skier Sarah Burke unfortunately she didn’t recover.
There are varying degrees of hazards, some more widely accepted than others. How much of a thrill are you seeking? Are you are putting your safety in jeopardy? To analyze a summertime sport one could argue that wake boarding is significantly more dangerous than laying on the beach sun tanning. Someone else could argue that staying in the house is much safer than being on the beach. We can’t live under a rock and there are some risks we all commonly take. I think the best alternative is to be aware of what the hazards are and make a conscious decision to take smart risks. During the short-sightedness of our youth the thrill often seems to take precedence over the risk. Keep in mind when you take a risk you need to be prepared to accept the potential fallout. Take time to assess hazards that may impact you. Is your risk tolerance higher than it should be?
I have tweeted a number of times related to vehicle safety, but the harsh reality is that driving a vehicle is likely the most dangerous activity that most people engage in. The term “cutting corners” originated during the horse and buggy days when cutting a corner was quite dangerous. A similar danger would still exist when towing a trailer or something of that nature. I want to share with you how a simple little distraction can cause you to lose sight of how important it is to use all your attention while you drive.
To start this story off, it was 1985 and I was a student at the Saskatchewan Technical Institute (STI which is now known as SIAST Palliser Campus). Money was pretty tight for me, in fact it was the first time I was really spending my money because throughout my teen years I was always in accumulation mode. Do you remember the days of 18 – 20% interest rates? Well, paying just to have a place to stay and the cost of school seemed to be a ridiculous use of the money I had worked so hard to earn. In order to save money I made a habit of not driving the car … besides the car wasn’t even mine, it was Dad’s; a 1977 Plymouth Arrow. I haven’t heard the term much lately, but it would definitely be described as a “beater”. I think Dad got a hundred bucks when he sold it, and that may have been generous.
STI was in Moose Jaw which is 200 km West of Lemberg (kinda humorous giving directions based on Lemberg’s location). After a few frugal outings I found that if I kept my speed at 90 km/hr and didn’t drive for the two weeks I was in Moose Jaw I would usually have enough gas to get all the way back to Lemberg without putting a drop of fuel in the tank. One time I cut it a little close and Mom ran out of gas Saturday morning when she took the Arrow downtown Lemberg for groceries (which is only a couple blocks from the house). All of this to say, I was tight and watched every penny I spent because I simply wasn’t used to spending money. Wasting money was even more detestable and I came unglued when I got a ticket for parking in the STI parking lot. The stinger was that I had a parking sticker, but it was still in the glovebox. Surely they wouldn’t expect me to pay the ticket just because I didn’t put it on the car; I’m a poor student. It seemed like such a tragedy. I went and complained to the friendly folks at STI, but they said I needed to take my grievance downtown.
So downtown I flew with a grimace on my face and a scowl in my eyes. I was less patient and more irritable than folks in Moose Jaw had likely seen me … all over a parking ticket. Did you ever notice when you’re impatient the driver in front of you seems to have all the time in the world? Well this guy stops right at an intersection … there was no yield and no one was coming, why didn’t he just turn left? What a Yahoo! Well, he wasn’t going to slow me down, I was 18 years old and I had an axe to grind … I pulled next to the sidewalk to pass him on his passenger side. As I got to the intersection a young boy, likely about 9 years old stepped off the sidewalk onto the street right beside the passenger door of the Arrow. Now I realized the car had simply stopped at the intersection to let the boy cross the street. I didn’t hit him, but I saw him and he was only one step away from a very serious injury or even death. My heart nearly exploded! How could I have done something so dangerous?
I don’t know who the boy was and likely he doesn’t even remember the incident, but that day I was humbled and broken, thinking of how it could’ve been his last day and how it would have unquestioningly been my fault. His life would be over and mine would be changed forever. Actually it did change me forever and as I recall this simple foolish decision I am so very thankful that it never cost a life to learn a very powerful lesson.
At one of my recent safety presentations I challenged the audience to think of one time when a little decision had a big impact. My little decision was not being willing to wait but to keep rushing without considering or observing all the facts. Although the impact could’ve been much more devastating it served to create an extra awareness of all the activity that is going on while driving and how important it is to really pay attention. Are there times you drive without paying attention? Are you focusing on the task at hand or preoccupied with other concerns? Are you texting or using your cell phone while driving? Not only is it illegal (in most provinces), but driving is a busy enough task without adding the extra distractions. I encourage you to stay in the moment and pay attention anytime you’re hurling 2,000 pounds down the road and please … STOP Cutting Corners!
Words people use can have a significant impact on us. Of course you’re all familiar with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, but have you heard that “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue”? There is a lot of power in words. After an injury or other significant incident people are often even more sensitive to words. There was one comment that impacted me greatly during my recovery … “I guess it was just a freak accident, eh?” … I agreed “Yeah, freak accident”, but then I thought was it really? Was that piece of wood just out to get me or was there something I did that caused the whole thing to happen. If I’m able to recreate the exact situation again does it cease to be a “freak accident”? I know what I did and I know it was dangerous. I also know that I could create the same situation that caused the injury again so I decided this was not a “freak accident” it was “PREVENTABLE”. The word accident carries a connotation that it is not preventable, but just happened. The word freak on the front of it seems to imply there is even less likelihood of prevention.
Recently a tragic injury claimed the life of a young hockey player because he blocked a slap shot and was hit by the puck in the neck. Many news articles claimed it was a “freak accident”, but it is abundantly clear what caused the injury. A hard slap shot could reach a velocity of more than 180 km/h and obviously could do an extreme amount of damage if it hits you. The chance of a powerful slap shot hitting you increases dramatically when you dive in front of the puck. The answer seems abundantly clear that sliding in front of a slap shot should not be a part of the game of hockey, but currently it is absolutely part of the game … the question is does it really need to be? How they respond to this tragedy is really a function of the saftey culture the NHL is trying to promote. People have questions about what type of protection they could introduce, but in a safety situation the hazard should be removed first … Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is always the last line of defence.
The game of hockey has come a long way since Jaques Plante introduced the use of a goalie mask. It appears the next progression may be to remove shot blocking from the game. This may not be as difficult as you would assume … simply making a slide worthy of a 2 minute minor would remove many of these types of injuries. Take a step back and consider: Would it really be such a bad thing for the game of hockey if more shots got through to the goalie? This change will not remove all of the potential puck injuries, but it should go a long way in removing such a blatantly dangerous action from being accepted practice.
Now back to the wording … I think sometimes it’s easier to say it was an accident or accidents just happen so that we don’t have to feel so bad that we let it happen. The fact is if you analyze a so called ‘accident’ in a thorough manner you’ll likely find that it is preventable. This is the reason the safety world refers to the cause of an injury as an incident and the same reason the media shouldn’t sensationalize a tragic incident by calling it a “Freak accident”. How do you address preventable injuries? Are you referring to them as freak accidents? Empower yourself and realize these injuries are preventable. Look at the hazards around you and brainstorm ways to address each hazard and prevent an injury.